India diaries: Panjim and Old Goa

 

It’s funny how the smallest things while travelling make you feel like you’ve accomplished so much.  Thinking back to my first day in Tokyo, getting on the subway and arriving at the intended destination (about 2 minutes down the line) was enough to inspire a little victory dance. After being in Japan for a while those initial accomplishments became routine, and things weren’t as exciting anymore. Being in India has rekindled all those feelings. I swear you’ve never seen someone as happy as I was the day I braved the bus from Calangute to Panjim.

There aren’t really bus stops here in Goa, more a general stretch of road where the bus may or may not arrive. If you ask a local where to catch the bus they’ll point to a random spot on the main street and tell you to wave the bus down.  This is partly the reason I am so glad I started my India trip down South. Things are relaxed in Goa, and I feel like I’m gaining a little insight into how things work around here, without the threat of too many people taking advantage of my naivety. The people in Goa are kind and friendly and I’m really going to miss it when I head up north.

My successful bus ride definitely warranted a Panjim victory meal, so off I went to Hotel Vihar for their famous thali. I had no idea what a thali was when I ordered it. It was my first Indian meal, and despite a few potential masala tears, I absolutely loved it. Thali is the best way to try different curries and vegetables because you get several small dishes that come with rice and chapatti or naan. It was fulling, and it was cheap.

I really liked Panjim. It’s a small, walkable city, with a few sights and markets. I sought out what the Lonely Planet described as “a giant church on the top of a hill that looks like a fancy white wedding cake”. They weren’t kidding. After that I wondered around town and found the municipal market, bought some much needed fruit and veg and watched florists preparing marigolds, while an old Indian granny shouted at me for taking pictures and not spending any money. After that I caught a rickety ride on an autorickshaw and headed to the previous Portuguese colony of Old Goa, to check out the biggest church in Asia, and a couple of other buildings and ruins. Panjim and Old Goa can definitely both be done in one full day.

It was definitely a day of firsts for me. First successful bus ride, first meal in an Indian restaurant, first time catching an autorickshaw/tuk tuk. I can see how the firsts of travel and the after sense of joy, excitement and accomplishment could become addictive. I think I was hooked from that very first 2 minute subway ride in Tokyo and its consequential victory dance.